Student political groups discuss issues at KIC debate

Brooke Forrest

The Kent Interhall Council held a student debate between numerous student political groups to address current voter issues like campaign finance and gun control on Wednesday night in the Student Center.

“It started as a way to reach out to students to get them involved in more civic action projects, so we were looking for a way of getting people more aware of what was going on so they’d have a better understand and partake in things in their community,” said Richard Lovell, director of student relations for KIC and a junior integrated social studies major.

Lovell organized the event for it’s second year in an effort to help show students why they should care about politics. He said he reached out to different political groups on campus to get a broad perspective of different views.

The event panel featured members of the Kent State College Democrats, the College Republicans and Turning Point USA, a non-partisan political group that promotes free market and limited government.

Two group members represented each organization, and the groups took turns addressing questions within a two-minute time frame. Each group was allowed 30-45 seconds for rebuttals.

The teams answered both KIC-created questions and audience questions. Some of the topics included Black Lives Matter, income inequality, abortion and what each group is doing for their candidates or cause.

“I’m glad that we paid more attention to student questions and student interests because I think that’s the number one reason why we debate to hear from our communities and address the needs of our communities,” said Jacquelyn Bleak, Kent State project manager of student mediation services and the moderator of the debate.

Aron Gates, a sophomore computer science major, asked two questions during the debate: the first about money in politics and the second about illegal immigration.

Gates said he asked questions because he didn’t see some of the major issues being addressed. He said he was ultimately pleased with the commentary he heard.

“I thought it was very useful, and I thought everyone was very respectful,” Gates said. “I enjoyed the debates that went around between each of the parties,” Gates said.

Bleak was pleased with the debaters ability to work with each other.

“The fact that people were listening to one another intently — and even at some points agreeing with one another — shows that it doesn’t always have to be argumentative, (and) it doesn’t always have to be trampling on other people’s opinions,” she said. “We can dialogue with one another about these issues, hear where the other person is coming from while still disagreeing with them.”

There were numerous times throughout the debate where several or all of the groups agreed about the topic. Most notably all the panelists were unanimous in believing the heroin epidemic to be the biggest issue Northeast Ohio is currently facing.

Despite the occasional agreement several topics did lead to some of the more divisive moments of the night included questions related to campaign finance, gun control and the presidential nominees.

“The audience questions were phenomenal,” said Zach Morris, president of Turning Point USA and a sophomore international relations major. “It really showed that as a whole even though we’re political different we’re still the same, we still have the same things that we care about. At the end of the day, before we’re conservatives and liberals, we’re all humans. So that’s what matters most.”

All the panelists expressed their enjoyment with the debate and how it turned out.

“I think it went great, we had a great discussion so it was a lot of fun, I had a really good time,” said Anthony Erhardt, College Democrats vice president and junior paralegal studies major. ”I think if we educated one person on policy and got them to learn something new then we accomplished our job and it was worthwhile.”

Lovell said the goal event of the event was to get students involved and to make them feel empowered so they realize they can make actual change in their community not just by voting but by being civically engaged in other ways as well.

“You can join groups and you can get involved in your community. When we the people stand together we can create real change in our communities,” Lovell said.

After the debate numerous attendees stuck around to speak further with the panelists and learn more about their organizations.

“I think there were a lot of good dialogues, (and) the audience really engaged, which I’m really happy about, I also think it showed that even though all these people are from much different organizations there was a lot of agreement,” Lovell said. “When we get down and talk about the issues we can actually work together and find real solutions which we are trying to do tonight to show that we are not that different. We can work together to find real solutions.”

Contact Brooke Forrest at [email protected].